Jim Hackett learned teamwork early on when he played football for the legendary Bo Schembechler at the University of Michigan. Hackett never forgot Bo’s coaching. When Hackett received Aquinas College’s 2013 reflection Award in October, he was all about honoring those who made possible his successes as Steelcase’s CEO.
He started with his wife Kathy, their two sons, his assistants, and then he went on to thank all the people he’d worked with as the team who’d earned the Reflections Award along with him. In 1981 Jim started at Steelcase Inc. in sales and marketing where he continued to earn promotions over the next decade.
The big leap happened in 1994 when, at age 39, he was named the company’s chief executive officer. Taking over the world’s largest manufacturer of office furniture before he was forty made James P. Hackett one of the youngest CEOs in the industry.
This January after 32 years with Steelcase, the past twenty as CEO, James P. Hackett will retire from the office furniture company founded as Metal Office Furniture in 1912. During his tenure, Steelcase went from being privately owned to becoming a publicly traded company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
Under Hackett, Steelcase continued to lead the way globally on environmental manufacturing, a corporate value dating back to the 1970s and the progressive vision of Peter M. Wege, the son of Peter Martin Wege, a Steelcase founder. This January Hackett’s unnamed successor will take over a thriving corporation, including 670 dealers around the world and revenue of $2.9 billion in fiscal 2013.
How this bright athlete born in Columbus, Ohio, ended up a Wolverine instead of a Buckeye is still unclear. But the standing ovation by the full house of people who came out to honor him at Reflections said they were very glad he did.